U Sask. Huskies football celebrates 25th anniversary of 1998 Vanier Cup victory

Click to play video: 'U Sask. Huskies celebrate 25th anniversary of 1998 Vanier Cup victory'
U Sask. Huskies celebrate 25th anniversary of 1998 Vanier Cup victory
WATCH: Members of the 1998 University of Saskatchewan Huskies returned to Saskatoon in time for the team's homecoming game, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their Vanier Cup win – Sep 9, 2023

A home-sweet-homecoming greeted the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Friday night in front of a record-breaking crowd at Griffiths Stadium.

Hosting their rivals, the Regina Rams, for their first home game of the season, the Huskies dominated en route to a 40-6 victory.

On that field pre-game, however, was a group of former Huskies returning to Saskatoon to celebrate a special anniversary — the 25th anniversary of the team’s 1998 Vanier Cup victory.

“To get everybody back together in a big group like this, it’s been a long time,” said former Huskies linebacker Trevor Ludtke. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

A few dozen members of the Huskies team that captured the Canadian collegiate football championship were honoured prior to kickoff in a reunion of teammates that’s been decades in the making.

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Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Huskies set to begin their quest for the Vanier Cup'
Saskatchewan Huskies set to begin their quest for the Vanier Cup

Former all-star offensive lineman and current Huskies head coach Scott Flory joined in the ceremony, which included carrying the Vanier Cup to mid-field, saying the 1998 win is a memory that ties every player on the roster together.

“I could be in Kelowna, to Calgary, to Winnipeg and I meet up with guys from that team,” Flory said. “I do all the time with alumni, it’s a bond that never leaves. There’s a special place for that team, it was an outstanding year.”

On Nov. 28, 1998 at the SkyDome in Toronto, the Huskies faced the Concordia Stingers as they searched for their third Vanier Cup title in program history.

The game was tied 17-17 in the fourth quarter, and Huskies linebacker Warren Muzika remembers lining up against the Stingers, who were looking for a big defensive stop.

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“They were running some option and they ran it one too many times and got caught,” Muzika said. “The guy ended up coughing up the ball.”

A sea of Huskies defenders jumped on the fumble in the end zone, with Ludtke eventually coming up with the go-ahead touchdown. It would prove to be the turning point in the game.

“It popped out, and you just got to be at the right place at the right time,” Ludtke said. “I got it, and the whole team coming together in that big hug and that cheer afterwards, it was amazing.”

Saskatchewan would go on to win the 34th Vanier Cup with a 24-17 final score, marking a trio of national championships for the team in less than a decade.

To those on the championship roster like Muzika say it’s hard to believe a quarter century has flown by.

“But maybe my knees and back say otherwise,” Muzika said.

For Ludtke, whose military career took him to Ontario, where he now lives, this week is the first chance in years to see many of his old teammates.

While all are recognizable, there are some key differences.

“There’s less hair, more grey hair out there,” Ludtke said. “A couple of guys are maybe weighing the same, but it’s not the same body type that they had 25 years ago.”

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Despite six trips to the Vanier Cup since 1998, the Huskies are still waiting to end their quarter century drought and hoist the trophy again.

Both Flory and Muzika meanwhile have returned to the program as part of the coaching staff in recent years, marching forward on the season and wanting their players to experience the joy of victory, as they did.

“Being a part of a championship like that, regardless of the age, sport, whatever, you just work so hard to have that pay off,” Flory said. “That’s just what I want for this team so bad, just to be able to experience and feel that because it’s remarkable.”

Off to a 2-0 record to begin the 2023 Canada West season, the Huskies will next host the University of Alberta Golden Bears at Griffiths Stadium on Sept. 15.

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